By Amanda Ensinger
Water and sewer rates have been a big concern for Prairie Township residents for many years.
At a recent board meeting, the trustees discussed a deal with the city of Columbus that could reduce water and sewer expenses.
According to board chairman Steve Kennedy, Columbus’ desire to conform boundary lines may give the township the leverage they need to secure cheaper water for residents.
“There are a few properties that have been annexed and they are paying double taxes to the Prairie Township Fire Department and Columbus,” said Kennedy. “This messes up Columbus’ capacity to pay bonds. This doesn’t really affect us, but it is a major deal to Columbus.”
As a result, Columbus wants to come to an agreement with the township on the properties.
“We tried to negotiate this a few years ago and asked Columbus to fix our sewer and water,” Kennedy said.
Columbus reportedly declined at that time.
However, now Columbus is willing to discuss water and sewer as part of this negotiation, but they only want one township representative present at the meetings.
“I want to be a part of these meetings and so does (trustee) Doug (Stormont),” Kennedy said. “I have been involved with water and sewer for 12 years and think I have a right to be a part of these conversations.”
Stormont said he had concerns about Kennedy being a part of those conversations because last time a deal fell through with Kennedy representing the area.
“We can’t go in with a full head and in my opinion that is part of the reason this failed last time,” Stormont said. “I’m worried you will get mad and we will have to wait another two and a half years. We can’t do that.”
Kennedy said the reason negotiations failed last time was not only his fault, but everyone in the room.
“I’m sorry I don’t let Columbus push us around, but I am not taking 100 percent of the blame for negations failing last time,” said Kennedy.
With the new township trustee Cathy Schmelzer in agreement, the board decided the fairest thing to do was to send their attorney to the meetings.
Water has been an ongoing issue in the township. Residents currently get their water from Franklin County. Some residents have complained that they pay more than double what neighboring communities pay that have Columbus water and sewer.
Recently, Franklin County held a public meeting where they discussed the issues they are facing with their aging system and announced they were looking into a potential partnership with Columbus.
“This bond issue is a real issue with them, so they really want this,” Kennedy said. “I am willing to compromise if it means merging Franklin County’s sewer and water with Columbus.”